Some property owned or leased by a business is subject to the rights of others to pass over their property (rights of way). Rights of way are a type of easement. For example, the rear of retail premises might be subject to a right of way for other adjoining occupiers to gain access for deliveries. The forecourt of a business might be subject to a right of way allowing adjoining owners to pass over it on foot or in vehicles to access their own premises, or businesses might both have use of a “shared driveway” to their premises. These rights can either be express (in a lease or in Land Registry Official Copies/in a deed) or they may have been acquired through use over a long period.
The party that benefits from an easement of this nature may need advice if another party is interfering with their rights. The interference might be preventing the business from carrying out its operations, for example, if delivery vehicles are blocked from entering and exiting. Interference with an easement is a form of private nuisance [put a link to the Nuisance heading].
The party whose land is subject to the easement (the servient owner) might find that the benefiting party (the dominant owner) is going beyond the rights granted, for example using an access with vehicles when access is only granted on foot, excessively using it, causing damage as a result of their use, or straying from the permitted route.
In addition to disputes about easements, boundary disputes can also arise. This is not uncommon with businesses on agricultural land/in rural areas, where the precise position of the boundaries may be less obvious than in urban areas. They can arise where one party decides to carry out developments and encroaches over the boundary with their build or their new boundary fence. They often arise when a property changes hands, and a new party arrives who is mistaken or has a different view about the position of the boundary.
We can advise on these issues. We would start by considering the Land Registry and other documents relating to the land in question and forming a view about the rights claimed/the position of the legal boundary. Sometimes there may not be a definitive answer as to the position of the legal boundary due to a lack of plans or physical features on-site, and it is only something a court can determine if it cannot be agreed. Sometimes the advice of a surveyor can help in boundary disputes, either to advise where a boundary shown on plans lies on the ground or to act as a mediator. Usually, an agreement can be reached through letters, meetings and site visits, but if not, the remedy is to seek an injunction and/or damages from the court, or possibly a declaration from the court clarifying the extent of entitlement to the easement or setting out the position of the legal boundary. Disputes over boundaries and easements can be acrimonious and prolonged. Advice at an early stage to confirm the legal position can help, together with assistance to resolve the dispute outside of court proceedings where possible.